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Some MS. Sidelights on Anglo-Jewish Emancipation

Maurice Myers

<plain_text><page sequence="1">SOME MS. SIDELIGHTS ON ANGLO JEWISH EMANCIPATION. By MAURICE MYERS. {Read before the Jewish Historical Society of England, March 23, 1908). An important series of letters on Jewish Emancipation, included in the Goldsmid archives, was contributed by Mr. Lionel Abrahams to vol. iv. of the transactions of this Society, pp. 116-176. I have unearthed a few additional fragments relating to the same subject out of a large collection of letters preserved by the late Mr. Jacob Franklin, editor of the Voice of Jacob. In January, 1848, Mr. Franklin prepared a statement of the Jewish case for the removal of political disabilities, and forwarded it to a few leaders in both Houses of Parliament. Sir Robert Peel wrote from Dray ton Manor on January 8th, declining to offer any suggestions. Lord John Russell sent a formal acknowledgment. The Bishop of Norwich wrote guardedly: " The question of admission of Jews to Parliament divides itself into two distinct questions, the one religious, the other political, and so much can be said on either that I must be excused from giving any decisive answer upon the subject at present." Lord Stanley wrote as follows :? "Knowsley, January 10, 1848. " Sir,?I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 7th inst., in which you ask my opinion whether certain, declaratory minutes, herewith returned, are calculated to remove scruples entertained con? scientiously by the opponents of the Bill for the admission of Jews into Parliament. I cannot undertake to say what effect these minutes may have upon the mind of others ; but while I admit the candour and temper by which they are characterised, I regret to be obliged to say that they do not remove the objections which I myself entertain to the measure in question.?I am, Sir, yours obediently, Stanley." 240</page><page sequence="2">SOME MS. SIDELIGHTS ON ANGLO-JEWISH EMANCIPATION. 241 It is interesting to note that Lord Stanley, who succeeded to the Earldom of Derby in 1851, was Prime Minister in 1858, when Jewish emancipation became an accomplished fact. Lord George Bentinck, Lord Stanley's intimate friend, wrote :? *' Harcourt House, January 9, 1848. " Sir,?I have the honour to acknowledge your letter of the 7th inst. I see no harm and there may be some good done by your proposed i declara? tory minute,' but I should hardly say you had made the most of your case. For example, under head 2, you have omitted some of the most important offices from filling which the Jews are placed under no disability?to wit, ' Recorderships9 in any city and corporate town in England and Wales; these are 'Judicial' situations arming Jews to try those very cases of * blasphemy1 about which so much talk is made in the House of Commons ; if I am not mistaken, a Jew can, by the Laws as they stand, be 1 Privy Councillor, a ' Secretary of State,' ' Keeper of the Great Seal,' and for anything I know to the contrary, ' Prime Minister,' were it not for the incidental neces? sity of the Prime Minister being in Parliament. It is prejudice as much as religious scruple that it is to be feared will prevail against you ; I think there are passages in the speeches of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, and the Bishop of Durham, that might be quoted with considerable effect. But whilst I am myself delicately situated to give advice in the matter, to be frank, I have given but very little attention to the question, and have never pretended to take any deep interest in its success or failure ; it cannot be looked upon as a question of Imperial magnitude by which any great national interest can be advanced or im? peded, and thus has failed to excite my care or to inspire me with zeal. I look upon it more as a personal than a national concernment from the smallness of the numbers of those affected by it. It is not a question I would have studied myself ; but when placed before me I am bound as a conscientious man to say that in my opinion the admission of Jews to Parliament offends against no moral law and against no principle of Christianity, and ought to offend no English or Christian prejudice. Whilst far from militating against imperial interests or the nationality of the Kingdom, it would rather than otherwise strengthen the one and add to the other. For~the reasons I have referred to being lukewarm on the subject, I have not given it that deep attention or study which I might otherwise have devoted to it, but if you think fit to call here any morning about mid-day I think I could put you in a way to draw up a more effective statement of your case than that before me. In the meantime perhaps you would be so good as to furnish me with a book of the Liturgy or any other services of the synagogue. My impression is that Mr. Goulbourn VOL. VI. Q</page><page sequence="3">242 SOME MS. SIDELIGHTS ON ANGLO-JEWISH EMANCIPATION. was Secretary of State for the Colonies when assent was given, under the advice of course of the Secretary of State, by the King in Council to the legislative Acts of Jamaica, Barbadoes, and Canada, removing the like disabilities from His Majesty's Jewish subjects resident in those colonies. The Jamaica and Barbadoes Acts were sanctioned, I am pretty sure, in 1830 (certainly in 1830, '31, '32, or '33), but it is important to the argument in favour of your cause, and I have no doubt if you were to seek out Mr. Hawes, or indeed any of the clerks of the Colonial Office, they would at once be able, by a reference to the records of their office, to tell you.?I have the honour to be, Sir, your humble servant, "G. Bentinck." Although Lord George Bentinck disclaims in this letter any pro? found interest in the question of Jewish emancipation, it had a consider? able influence on his political career. Four years before this letter was written he had voted for a resolution, moved by Lord George Russell, in favour of the admission of Jews to Parliament. This led to differences with the Protectionist party (whose leader he was), and resulted in his resigning the leadership. He died nine months after writing the letter I have read. Lord George, in his letter, very properly drew attention to the Colonial legislation by which Jewish emancipation became a fact in England's daughter States long before the Mother Country proceeded to the same step. This legislation served as one of the principal weapons in the fight for emancipation in this country, and had, perhaps unbeknown to Lord George Bentinck, been referred to by Mr. (after? wards Sir) Francis Goldsmid, in a postscript, dated 1833, to his "Remarks on the Civil Disabilities of British Jews," which was pub? lished in 1830. So Lord George's suggestion had been anticipated by some fifteen years, and it appears inexplicable that Mr. Franklin should have omitted to refer to Colonial legislation in his statement of the Jewish case. In 1848, the year of Lord George's letter, Mr. Goldsmid repeated and amplified his references to the Colonial Acts in his " Reply to the Arguments Advanced Against the Removal of the Remaining Disabilities of the Jews." The Jamaica Bill was ratified in 1831, and in Barbadoes emancipation had been obtained even eleven years earlier. My next MS. is a letter from Lord Ashley to Mrs. Ionna. Mrs. Ionna was the editress of the Christian Ladies' Magazine, and was a warm</page><page sequence="4">SOME MS. SIDELIGHTS ON ANGLO-JEWISH EMANCIPATION. 243 friend of Jews in general and of Mr. Jacob Franklin in particular. The letter is as follows :? "House of Commons, May 9,1813. " My Dear Mrs. Ionna,?The conversation we held together a few days ago was brought, I think, to this conclusion, that a party of gentlemen, animated by a genuine zeal for the welfare of the Hebrew People, should meet in friendly intercourse a number of Jewish gentlemen and discuss the best mode of ameliorating the civil condition of the sons of Israel throughout all the countries of the world. It is agreed, I understand, that all reference to projects of conversion should be avoided by the Gentile party, and that any scheme for the attainment of political influence and power in any State or Kingdom by the Jewish People should be excluded from the views of the Hebrew gentlemen. All our consideration was to be bounded by the lines of their civil position in the several countries where they are found. I can entertain no objection to such a proposal. The question may be treated as the question of the Slave Trade, which was altogether distinct, in the preliminary steps, from any reference to the spiritual condition of the sufferers.?I am, dear Mrs. Ionna, very truly yours, Ashley." Lord Ashley was a prominent supporter of Jewish missions, to which Mrs. Ionna was strenuously opposed. I do not know whether anything came of this proposal to play " Hamlet" with the Prince of Denmark left out, to consider the amelioration of the civil condition of the Jews without any reference to political emancipation. Lord Ashley obstructed the progress of the Jew Bill, and.in 1847, for instance, voted against the reference of the measure to Committee. His lord? ship's remarks on the occasion were in extraordinary contradiction to his vote. In the course of his speech he said :? " I regard the very poorest Israelite with feelings akin to reverence, as one of the descendants of the most remarkable nation that ever appeared on the face of the earth, one of the forefathers of those who are yet to play the noblest part in the history of mankind. Sir, I believe very few persons understand the actual condition of the Jewish people. ... I say that the Jews are a people of very powerful intellect, with cultivated minds and habits of study which would defy the competition of the most indefatigable Germans. Their literature descends in an unbroken chain from the days of Our Lord down to the present time. ... I am speaking, not of the ancient Jews in the palmy days of Jewish history, but of the Jews as oppressed and despised in the days of their dispersion. Under</page><page sequence="5">244 SOME MS. SIDELIGHTS ON ANGLO-JEWISH EMANCIPATION. this aspect their literature extends throughout the lengthened period I have mentioned, and embraces every branch of secular and religious knowledge." "The Jews," he went on to say, after further expatiating on their intellectual superiority, "exhibit a greater desire and a greater fitness to re-enter the general family of mankind." And yet his lordship voted against a measure designed to assist the Jews to " re-enter the general family of mankind," for which he had admitted their fitness! My next MS. is of unusual interest, although it dates from 1874, some sixteen years after the emancipation battle was won. On May 14th of that year, a small private dinner was given in the hall of the Fishmongers' Company, when the freedom of the Company was to have been presented to Sir Moses Montefiore, though the aged baronet was prevented at the last moment, through indisposition, from attending. Among those who attended the banquet was Lord Hatherley, an ex-Lord Chancellor of England, who, when in the House of Commons, had intro? duced Baron Lionel de Rothschild when he abortively took the oath not according to the prescribed form. The MS. to which I have referred is Lord Hatherley's account of his speech on the occasion. It is written on notepaper, headed 31 Great George Street, S.W., where he resided at the time. In the course of his remarks he said:? " I much regret the absence of the principal personage of this day's proceedings. I had hoped to witness the presentation uf the honorary freedom of your Company to Sir Moses Montefiore, and I lament the cause of his absence. I recollect, with sincere pleasure, that I had the honour of conducting to the table of the House of Commons the first member of the Jewish community who had ever presented himself to take the oath pre? scribed by law for his admission to the seat which the electors for the City of London had thought him worthy to fill. The then existing law pre? vented his admission notwithstanding his taking the oath in the only manner which his conscience permitted or by which indeed his conscience could be bound. I will not here enter into the absurdities which had been enacted against our Roman Catholic brethren, and which only by accident had struck the Jewish community?always noted for their fidelity to our constitution. Suffice it to say that the first step taken by Baron Roths? child led to the abolition of the disqualifications with which his community had so long and so unjustly been fettered. To this Company, which has</page><page sequence="6">SOME MS. SIDELIGHTS ON ANGLO-JEWISH EMANCIPATION. 245 always been foremost in advancing Civil and Religious Liberty, the removal of these disqualifications must be a subject of sincere satisfaction. We have much to be thankful for in the breaking-down of the wall of partition that separated the Jew from the rest of mankind ; we can now much more freely speak what we think the truth to them, and let them speak what they consider to be the truth to us, and if you wish to reach any man's heart, do not set up an Act of Parliament between him and your own sympathy." The freedom of the Fishmongers' Company was actually presented to Sir Moses on June 29, 1874, a deputation consisting of Mr. John Samuel, a Mr. Venning, and the father of the present clerk, proceeding to Ramsgate for the purpose. The freedom was enclosed in a gold casket, and the deputation was entertained by the new freeman. I now come to a letter from Mr. A. Abraham, one of the earliest Jewish sheriffs:? ?* Southampton, February 15,1842. " Dear Sir,?In reply to your note, I beg to say that it is perfectly correct my being Sheriff for the Town and County of Southampton, but as I am not at all ambitious of being published, hope you will not do so unless it were done with a view to serve the cause of our faith, and then you have my full sanction. I will merely state, for your information, that I was elected a Councillor in November, 1838, after a severe contest, and last year was returning officer for the borough. I was again returned in November, 1842, after a contest, and this year was unanimously appointed Sheriff, which office I now hold, and without making the declaration on the faith of a Christian. At any time most happy to forward your views.? I remain, yours truly, A. Abraham." Here is another letter from the provinces. It is from Mr. Emanuel Emanuel, of Portsmouth, the father of Lady Magnus. It possesses an interest quite apart from its reference to the emancipation campaign, as its somewhat crude context shows :? " Portsmouth, December 24, 1843. " My Dear Sir,?I have by this evening's post forwarded you two newspaper reports of our dinner [Portsmouth Hebrew Benevolent Society] which went off most satisfactorily. About ninety were present. I have annexed a few words I said on proposing the Mayor and Corporation. It was quite gratifying to see the good feeling that existed and the honour? able manner the Jews were spoken of by their Christian guests. Dr. Scott</page><page sequence="7">246 SOxME MS. SIDELIGHTS ON ANGLO-JEWISH EMANCIPATION. (a Conservative) said he was not satisfied with the Jews being entitled to their civil rights but Parliamentary and all others. We invited the Captain and Officers of the Dutch frigate now at this port, but did not the Russian Captain and Officers of the Emperor's Ship of War now lying here, and which I had an opportunity to explain to them the cause, their oppression of the Jews of Russia. I gave them two numbers of the Times as also of the last Voice of Jacob 1 to send home as a present to their country.' The par? ticulars of the English opinion I made them fully acquainted with. Do you not think the Board of Deputies ought to take the question up of those poor afflicted beings, and that the various congregations in England by petition to our ministers ? I hope another year to have the pleasure of your company to dinner.?With best w ishes, dear Sir, yours very faithfully, "Emanuel Emanuel." This concludes the little series that may serve as the hors d'ceuvres of the full story of the emancipation campaign which has been promised to us.1 3 The promised volume, H. S. Q. Henriques, " The Jews and the English Law," was issued to members of the Jewish Historical Society of England on July 23, 1908, in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of Acts enabling Jews to sit in Parliament, July 23, 1858. See especially Chapter VIII., "The Civil Rights of English Jews," and Chapters IX. to X., "The Political Rights of English Jews."</page></plain_text>